Key Democrat says Arctic Refuge now safe from drilling due to defeat of Republicans

Jeff Bingaman, senator from New Mexico will be the new chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He says the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is now safe from drilling proposals. The oil industry’s political representatives can count the votes too, and they agree.

Story by James W. Brosnan. Albuquerque Tribune.

Bison briefly excape quarantine facility just north of YNP

Bozeman Chronicle article by Scott McMillion.

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Here is the news release on the incident from the Buffalo Field Campaign-

BUFFALO FIELD CAMPAIGN (BFC)
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, Montana 59758
406-646-0070
bfc-media@wildrockies.org
http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org

Eight Imprisoned Yellowstone Bison Calves Escape Quarantine Facility
Facility’s Integrity Shattered; Conditions Poor
Exclusive BFC Video & Photos Available Upon Request

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Contact: Stephany Seay 406-646-0070


GARDINER, MONTANA. Eight Yellowstone bison calves, captured and orphaned by state and federal agencies, escaped the Corwin Springs quarantine facility near Gardiner, Montana on Monday of this week.

“This quarantine is a failed experiment that should be stopped at once,” said Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) Project Director Dan Brister. “Bison are escaping and wild animals are entering. By definition quarantine is ‘a strict isolation imposed to prevent the spread of disease.’ The incompetence of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and the Department of Agriculture in allowing the quarantined animals to potentially mingle with wild animals is astounding,” he added.

Bighorn sheep and mule deer were observed inside the facility last winter and spring.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) and USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) run the joint state-federal quarantine feasibility study under the premises of creating “a disease-free herd,” and restoring “wild bison” to public and tribal lands. The captured wild calves are living in domestication. They are imprisoned within double-electric fences, wear ear tags and are fed hay like livestock. The bison calves are routinely handled and experimented on by scientists.

After somehow managing to escape through a double fence, the domesticated bison remained in the immediate area and were easily recaptured.

“Quarantine is the antithesis of buffalo restoration. Wild buffalo restore themselves naturally, every year when members of the Yellowstone herd attempt to migrate, but the government keeps getting in the way and killing them for trying,” said BFC spokesperson Stephany Seay.

The agencies obtain the wild Yellowstone bison calves from capture and slaughter operations carried out under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). The IBMP is a taxpayer-funded state/federal plan drafted at the urging of Montana’s livestock industry. Approximately 100 bison calves have been captured from Yellowstone and transported to the facility. Over the summer, 48 calves were removed from quarantine and sent to slaughter to be dissected and studied. None of the calves killed were infected with brucellosis.

Wild bison have never transmitted brucellosis to domestic cattle, even where they have coexisted for decades (Grand Teton National Park).

Representatives from the Buffalo Field Campaign, a wild bison advocacy group, toured the facility last spring and were shocked at the conditions in which the wild calves were being held.

“We found old syringe-needles from when the property was an elk ranch,” said BFC co-founder Mike Mease, “and there is an old semi-tractor still parked in one of the active pastures and a lot of junk–scrap metal and old machinery–scattered around the place. They haven’t even installed freeze-proof irrigation to maintain the larger pastures, so the bison are stuck in small corrals unfit even for cattle.”

At a public meeting in Gardiner, Montana last winter, FWP scientist Keith Aune boasted that they would “train [the now-domesticated calves] how to be wild.” He went on to say that running the quarantine facility “is a lot like ranching.”

American Bison once spanned the continent, numbering between 30 and 50 million. The Yellowstone bison are America’s only continuously wild herd, numbering fewer than 4,000 animals, less than .01 percent of the bison’s former population.

The Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in the field every day in defense of America’s last wild buffalo. Video, photos and more information are available at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org.

YNP WOLF Field Notes, November 22-26, 2006, by Kathie Lynch

Kathie Lynch, one of our Wolf Recovery Foundation directors, has just written one of her ever popular reports of Yellowstone wolf observations.

Ralph Maughan

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YNP WOLF Field Notes, November 22-26, 2006

By Kathie Lynch.

Thanksgiving in Yellowstone! If you want to escape the holiday frenzy, head to Yellowstone–where theonly crowds you’ll find are the herds of bisonstanding around in the road, and instead of holiday”muzak” at the mall, the howl of the wolf will fill your ears.

My five day visit (November 22-26, 2006) featured avery special treat–I got to see the Druids! The last time I saw the Druid Peak pack was July 4, just beforethey departed Round Prairie for summer in the high country. While they have dropped in for occasionalvisits to the Lamar Valley since then, this was myfirst chance to see them.

My sightings were brief, but, as most devoted Yellowstone wolf watchers will agree, any Druid sighting is a most precious gift! The Druids had been visiting a cow bison carcass (cause of death unknown, but a sickly looking one had been reported in the area.) It was on the hillside, just north of the roadfrom the Hitching Post turnout in Lamar and very near “21’s Crossing.”

My first Druid sighting was a big, beautiful graypup (now almost adult size) north of the road in the Soda Butte Valley as the Druids traveled east from the carcass. The pup was a crack up! He was rolling around on his back in the snow, wiggling all over and waving all four legs in the air! That one minutesighting was my only wolf for that day, but I couldn’t have been happier–I had seen a Druid!

The next day, I was even luckier. I arrived just in time to see 10 Druids running full tilt just below the tree line in the same area. They were so full of life and just seemed to be enjoying a gallop in the snow. A couple of bull elk scattered in their path, but I don’t think they were really chasing them–it looked like they were just out for a joy ride!

Of course, with so many pups, you have to expect a lot of enthusiasm! The Druid count lately has consistently been “only” 14 (Only!…Think about just four Druids a year ago!), nine black and five gray. Unfortunately, one black pup has not been present inrecent sightings. I sure hope the missing one is not that brave little fellow who was left behind for four days at Round Prairie last July before being rescued by the pack. If a black pup is indeed missing, the pack would include four adults (alpha 480M, alpha 529F, 302M, and the uncollared gray female) and 10pups (six black and four gray).

The other big news had to do with the Agate Creek pack–they were on the move into new and hostile territory. One morning, all 13 Agates (led by venerable alpha male 113M and alpha 472F, a former Druid, and sired by 21M) were in Yancey’s Hole (north of the road, between Tower Junction and Petrified Tree). At the same time, all eight of the Hellroaring packwolves (led by alphas 287M and 353F) were on a carcass, easily visible below Hellroaring Overlook.

The three Hellroaring black pups were having a grand old time jumping on and off of rocks and playing tug-o-war with big, flappy pieces of hide.

The Agates eventually made their way west to Hellroaring and sent the Hellroaring wolves running for their lives, scattering them every which way. Since I had watched the Hellroaring pack on that carcass in the morning, I didn’t realize when I

returned in the afternoon and saw wolves in the exact same place and on the same carcass that it was now a different pack. Only the fact that the Hellroaring pack only has two grays, and the pack I saw in the afternoon clearly had more grays, gave it away. Both packs have collared black-turning-silvery gray alpha females and also a collared dark black wolf, so it’s easy to make the wrong assumption, if you aren’t expecting the unexpected!

In other pack news, the 13 member Oxbow Creek pack (formerly 536F’s Group) was often visible in the general area north of the road between North Butte and Hellroaring. The eight member Slough Creek pack has been a bit elusive, with occasional sightings in the Slough Creek area, but they are often gone for several days. A couple of the Unknown Group wolves (which caused such trouble for the Sloughs last April) have even been seen in the Little America/Slough area recently.

The Leopold pack, possibly 18-19 strong, including 12 pups, was sometimes visible far, far away in their traditional Blacktail Plateau territory.

One thing that strikes me is how crowded the many packs are in the Northern Range. From Round Prairie in the east to the Blacktail Plateau in the west, it is a continuum of medium to large packs: Druid (14?), Slough (8), Agate (13), Hellroaring (8), Oxbow (13), and Leopold (19?). The only room for expansion seems to be west of the Blacktail Plateau toward Mammoth

(and the resurrected eight member Swan Lake pack), north out of the Park, or south into the Park’s interior. The Agates have already made forays last summer south to Canyon and the Hayden Valley pack’s territory. It looks to me like there is a loomingpotential for a lot of inter-pack territorial rivalry, especially when the breeding season arrives in early February.

The annual Early Winter Study is going on from November 15 to December 15. During the month, crews of three extremely dedicated volunteers spend every waking moment documenting each and every detail about their assigned pack (the Leopolds, Sloughs or Hellroarings.) The only problem is, the packs don’t always cooperate, and some days it’s hard to even find your wolves!

If you still need more reasons to visit Yellowstone in the late fall/early winter, consider all of the other awesome animals who are still out and about (sans the bears, of course). In one hour of watching the bison carcass near Hitching Post, I was treated to a procession which included a beautiful red fox (clever, and quick too!), a golden eagle (who made everyone scatter just by lifting his mighty wings), six big, bushy coyotes, and the usual assortment of magpies and ravens . . . truly a Thanksgiving feast for the masses!

The red foxes have been particularly obliging and photogenic lately, as have the bighorn sheep in the Gardiner River Canyon (between Gardiner and Mammoth). The big guys are in the rut and making the rocks tumble off the almost vertical canyon walls as they cling to them and battle for the ewes . . . truly a sight to see!

Now and always, we should be so very thankful that we have the wolves and the rest of our animal “family” in Yellowstone to come “home” to at Thanksgiving . . . or any other time of year!

Note from Ralph Maughan. Doug Smith at Yellowstone Park told me today that the Agates had just chased the Sloughs way up Slough Creek to McBride Lake and maybe beyond. He said the Agates have been really “flexing their muscles.” Kathie describes the Agate’s chase of the Hellroaring Pack above.

Yellowstone wolf pack encircles two photographers . . . . .”wild and beautiful”

Paradise Valley wildlife photographer Alan Sachanowski has written a very interesting and timely story about a recent experience he and another photographer had in Hayden Valley close up with the Gibbon wolf pack . . . Ralph Maughan
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By Alan Sachanowski.

I have read with interest stories recently about individuals who have felt threatened by wolves in the back country. Forest Service employees being evacuated from a wilderness area because of a perceived threat, an armed bow hunter claiming to have been trapped in his tent for hours, and of course the hunter who inadvertently shot his guide a couple years ago in Paradise Valley Montana, because he mistook him for wolves that were “coming to get him”.  The list of stories goes on. I thought that, perhaps, your readers might be interested in reading another “close encounter” type story. The primary difference between this story and many others is perception–the realization that wolves are not the nearly supernatural devils of our childhood fables; nor are they angels. They are merely highly intelligent, extremely curious, members of the wildlife community.

A few days before the interior roads in Yellowstone National Park were to close for the season, a friend and I decided to take a hike in the southern part of Hayden Valley.  We climbed to the top of a hill about a quarter of a mile from the road and scanned the distant meadows, sage and timber.  Way off in the distance we saw a herd of about twenty or thirty bison and decided to walk in that general direction.  It wasn’t especially cold, perhaps 25 or thirty degrees; and it was alternately snowing lightly and sleeting.

We got out about two miles when we stopped while my friend scanned the tree line, which was still 3/4 mile away, with binoculars. He handed them to me with one word: “Wolves”. I took the binoculars and looked where he indicated. There, on a low hill about three hundred yards away, were three or four wolves sniffing around. My friend, who has photographed wolves extensively both here and in Alaska, suggested that we sit down in the sage. Perhaps, he thought, it might be possible to get a long distance photograph. I continued to watch them through the binoculars as more wolves appeared from the other side of the hill.

Now there were nine, then eleven. They lined up on the hill and were all looking in our direction.

A few weeks earlier, while hiking with another friend in the Pelican Valley, we had come upon five members of the Mollie’s Pack. These wolves had bolted into the timber the moment that we topped the rise, and inadvertently sky-lined ourselves. The current wolves, however, were not running away. In fact, they had begun walking in our direction.

As I understand it, wolves have pretty good eyesight for distinguishing movement; but they rely much more heavily on their sense of smell for identification purposes. We were down-wind and had dropped out of sight into the sage. All that they had seen was something move and then drop to the ground. Could have been an animal bedding down, could have been an injured or dying animal.

Led by a large black and a gray (the alphas?) they began running toward us. I was amazed at how quickly they closed the distance. They split and surrounded us, circling, checking us out. Wewatched at eye level, the muscles rolling beneath their fur as they ran by. Nothing I have ever experienced comes close to how wild and beautiful these wolves were as they ran past so close that I felt that I could reach out and touch them. I might add that while we were both carrying bear spray, neither one of us felt compelled to even so much as loosen our holsters….Because Neither One of Us Ever Felt Threatened.

The wolves stopped and gathered about a hundred or a hundred and fifty feet beyond us. They were now down-wind, and noses went to the air. They were checking our ID. Now that they knew for sure that we were people, they started moving away immediately…..down the valley.

A few of them stopped once or twice to look back, as if to see if we were trying to follow. My friend commented as we were leaving that people who think that truly wild, non habituated wolves are a danger to people simply do not understand wolves. Wolves have a natural aversion to people. We have never been food, we have never represented food.

The real danger, he said, is the same as with any wildlife. Any animal, from a pika to a bison, can be dangerous if habituated to people; approached too closely, fed etc. All wolves need is the freedom to be free.

As we hiked out, we could hear the wolves howling from the trees down the valley….they possibly had gotten separated and the alphas were calling them together. From the top of a hill more than a mile away, we could see them in a long line returning to the valley…..maybe to continue their bison hunt?

My advice to anyone who ever finds themselves in a situation where they feel, for whatever reason, a perceived threat from wolves, would be to leave no doubt as to your identity. Don’t sit in a tent dressed in “no-scent” or “deer-scent” clothing banging on the walls like an elk in death throes. Get out, stand up tall and scream, “I’m a human being!!” My guess is that any wolves in the area will beat a hasty retreat!

thepack-copy4web.jpg
The wolf pack. Copyright Alan Sachanowski

gray-in-sage-web.jpg

Copyright Alan Sacharnowski

Do you want to discuss something?

I notice that many blogs provide a place to post without the posts being in any relation to a particular topic.

So let’s see if there is interest.

The urban deer ‘problem’

Over on Alan Gregory’s blog there is a discussion of urban deer. It’s not just a matter of concern in the East. It’s in the West too, even including Wyoming.

 The Urban Deer ‘problem’

Posted in Deer, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on The urban deer ‘problem’

Wolf report update (by Idaho Fish and Game Dept)

IDAHO FISH AND GAME
HEADQUARTERS NEWS RELEASE

Boise, ID

Date: November 27, 2006
Contact: Ed Mitchell
(208) 334-3700

wolf report: update

Federal officials are investigating the killings of two wolves in the Clearwater region of north-central Idaho, and in November wolves have killed one cow and one calf, both east of Cascade.

The radio collar from the alpha male of the O’Hara Point pack was found and turned in by a deer hunter in mid-November. The pack roams the South Fork of the Clearwater, and the wolf was last located alive on October 4, 2004. The collar has been turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement, and the death is under investigation.

An untagged adult female gray wolf was found killed south of Grangeville on November 19. Her death also is under investigation. The total documented wolf mortality including all causes is 60 so far this year in Idaho.

On November 9, federal officials confirmed that wolves killed a calf on state land east of Cascade. Idaho Department of Fish and Game authorized the removal of two wolves.

A week later, on November 17, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services confirmed wolves killed a cow on private land southeast of Cascade, an area where wolves of the Orphan Pack have killed livestock in the past. Traps were set.

Wolf control actions, authorized by Fish and Game and carried out by the federal Wildlife Services, are in no danger of jeopardizing wolf recovery in Idaho.

The Fish and Wildlife Service considers the wolf recovered in the northern Rocky Mountains. Federal officials are working on a proposal to remove wolves from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana separately from Wyoming, which would be a break from policy of considering the wolf population in all three states together.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf reports can be viewed at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/.